I spent the weekend at an arts and crafts festival at the Tannehill Ironworks State Park in Alabama where I was peddling my book, The Bull, and giving out free subscriptions to EHT. While there I met a lot of interesting people, including one couple who were planning to build an art studio on their property constructed of hay… as in the stuff horses eat. Their building plan relied on a poured concrete foundation on which they would stack successive courses of hay or straw bales to build the exterior walls (they recommended using straw grass or “Halloween” hay). Each successive course has the joints between the bales staggered, just like stacking courses of brick or block. They explained that the bales would be banded together and reinforced with rebar. Eventually the finished straw-bale walls would be finished with several layers of stucco.
The couple explained that hay-bale construction was exceptionally economical when compared to conventional methods of construction. Straw is a renewable material and affords extraordinary insulation benefits when the walls are properly constructed. I had never heard of “straw bale construction”. All of this was news to me, but I’m always interested in learning about alternative methods of conventional building. I did a little research online and found that there’s a lot of available information on straw-bale construction methods–you can even build a two-story, load-bearing home with the stuff!
The idea of straw-bale construction sounds very cool to me, and I thought EHT readers would be interested as well. For more information on building with straw, check out the following links:
Wikipedia provides a nice introduction to the construction process.
The Ironstraw Group is a non-profit organization that promotes the use and acceptance of straw as a standard building material.
And StrawBale.com is a website billed as “A World Leader in Straw Bale Education.
— M. Weber